In defense of the un-tailored sweater (You Can Knit That, volume 1)

Happy Friday, lovely knitters!

This week, I became a published author for the third time.


I love writing books – and I always try to make my books as clear and accessible as they can possibly be. But it must be said (and was said, by my friend Beth, many times), that my first two books – Knit to Flatter and Knit Wear Love – required a bit of background on the part of the knitter. My newest book, You Can Knit That, doesn’t. It goes through all of the different ways we can make sweaters, in super-accessible, beginner-friendly terms.

You can read more about the book’s contents, and see pictures of all of the patterns, by clicking here to visit the book’s page – but right now I want to talk about just a few of the patterns in the book. In particular, several sweaters in You Can Knit That that are un-tailored. You might be surprised by this! The vast majority of my past designs have been focused on helping sweater knitters who want something tailored.

But the fact is, un-tailored sweaters can be awesome. Today on the blog, I wanted to talk a little bit about how.


The less tailoring and fitting there is in a sweater, the easier it is to get the sweater to fit you properly. Now, believe it or not, there is some work to be done here – you don’t want the garment falling off of you, and you don’t want it too tight either – but the work is pretty minimal compared to other kinds of garments. There are several un-tailored sweaters in You Can Knit That – and when knitting one, you should choose a size that’s between 4-8” (10 – 20.5 cm) larger than your upper torso measurement, double-check the length, and you’re done.

you-can-knit-that-sweaters-33 you-can-knit-that-sweaters-40 you-can-knit-that-sweaters-27
(The Rigging Sweatshirt, the Blaze Cardigan, and the Cushy Pullover range in ease from 4 to 10”. All look great.)

Well, you’re almost done. The key to these sweaters looking great is to use materials that ensure the garment wears well. You don’t want an un-shaped sweater to feel boxy or stiff, so choose yarn that makes a drapey, fluid fabric. (I used Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy for Rigging, Shibui Maai and Staccato held together for Blaze, and Shibui Maai on its own for Cushy.)

So: Choose your materials carefully, and then lean into an easier sweater project with confidence.


In my tutorial on fearless first sweaters, and again in You Can Knit That, I say something that’s worth repeating here: Your sweater happiness is determined by how your expectations play out against reality.

And I don’t want to say that un-tailored sweaters have lowered expectations, because you certainly still want a lovely, wearable sweater! But by and large, your expectations are more flexible for an un-tailored garment. Think about it this way: If you’re after a blazer replica, or a perfectly-tailored hourglassy pullover, you’re going to notice every single place it rubs you even the tiniest bit wrong.

If you’re knitting that perfect beach sweater, or want something to snuggle up in on cold days, you’ll be less apt to notice if it’s the tiniest bit long, or the bust is just a little larger than you’d originally thought.


Sarah could wear Beachwalker 2” smaller or 4” larger and it would still look pretty much the same thanks to its drop-shoulder construction.


It’s my mission in life to help you create garments you love to wear. And the fact that you’ll have an easier time out of the gate, and be less likely to be disappointed with your sweater, are both great reasons for me to write a few un-tailored sweater patterns.

you-can-knit-that-sweaters-46 you-can-knit-that-sweaters-42 you-can-knit-that-sweaters-12

But I have to admit, mostly I was excited about working on You Can Knit That sweaters because my own personal style involves a lot of upscale sweatshirt-like tops. I work from home full time, and love being able to throw on something more casual before sitting down at the computer for several hours. I wear jeans a lot, and love a comfy (but attractive) sweater to pair with them.

I want to make several sweaters from You Can Knit That for myself eventually, but one of the samples that has already stolen my heart completely is an un-tailored, all-in-one-piece number without a lick of shaping: The Rigging Sweatshirt.


I’ve worn it a dozen times already, even though I’m trying to keep it pristine for trunk shows! It’s incredibly comfortable, took me hardly any time to knit, and looks great with about a billion things I own. I want another one, a little longer, in grey. And maybe a cuff-to-cuff version with long sleeves in a deep dark red.

It’s hands-down one of the most compelling hand-knits in my closet. And I say that as someone with about a billion hourglassy sweaters that fit me perfectly!

If you wear casual, unstructured clothing from the store, you can create an even better version with your own hands. I promise.

What do you think?

I hope you’ll join me in occasionally switching out your amazingly tailored hand-knit for something a little more relaxed, and give an un-tailored sweater a try! But I want to hear from you either way. What do you most like to wear? Have any success stories, or horror stories, to share?

21 thoughts on “In defense of the un-tailored sweater (You Can Knit That, volume 1)

  1. I love, love, love the green fair isle sweater. I saw it when I took your workshop at NYC VKL, and have been waiting to get my hands on the pattern. It’s going to have to wait a bit longer, there are a few sweaters in various stages of production (2 from your first book). Must get a move on those…..

  2. I will definitely be buying this book – congratulations, it looks wonderful!!!

  3. I think the word above should be throw and not through. Sorry, can’t help myself.

  4. I just don’t like the look of dropped or one-piece shoulders on me, so I guess untailored sweaters are not for me. Love your more fitted designs, though!

  5. Awesome!

  6. I LOVE un-tailored sweaters (and blouses and tee shirts…). I wear almost no tailored tops, because anything fitted around the waist and at the armholes makes me feel really constrained and self-conscious. So I’m excited to try some of these!

  7. Amy I just wanted to comment that I have this book and loved the instructions on seaming. I never really “got it” before but now have confidence that I will be able to seam a sweater when I get around to committing to one (currently the Woodcutters Vest is tempting me to cast on).

  8. Love your book, I have read it from cover to cover and have fallen in love with a lot of the sweater but The Rigging Sweatshirt is calling my name.

  9. Is unstructured then, the same as an Eileen Fisher fit?

  10. We’ve been on vacation, heading home today and your book is waiting for me. I’m so excited. The Fair Isle and Cushy for me!

  11. While I’ve knitted a number of sweaters with varying success, I am mostly self-taught and always wonder if there is a better way of doing certain things. And, there several of the patterns I would like to begin TODAY. So, a copy is on its way to me!

  12. Oh I need to make that Rigging Sweatshirt! It is just perfect. I am also loving that goldenshort sleeved sweater. SO MUCH PRETTY! Congrats on the new book, Amy!

  13. I’ve been knitting more drop-shoulder cardigans and tops lately, because I’ve found them to be pretty wearable. I have a large bust, so I choose the size by my upper bust so they’re still flattering. My upper bust is 36″, my full bust is 40″. I usually choose whatever size is around 4″ larger than my upper bust because otherwise I look like I’m wearing a sack. Another great thing I’ve found lately are sweaters knit on the bias! There are several really great patterns that have been published recently that do this, so they fit almost as though they’re tailored because they drape beautifully, even in your standard wool. So far I’ve knit three: Hachure, Delancey, and Aumangea. They’re quickly becoming favorites.

  14. Amy, once again, your designs are elegant and wearable. Can’t wait to get my book!

  15. Fabulous-looking Book, Amy. Have checked it out further online and just ordered it. Hubby can put it away as my Christmas pressie. Might have to finish some WIPs while waiting. Thanks for the inspiration and for teaching us new things!

  16. Amy, thanks for your newest book YCKT is well written, thoughtful, and just what I needed as a novice sweater knitter. Thank you, thank you, thank you for demystifying the process of sweater knitting!!
    I can’t wait to knit so many of these designs, learning along the way! Best wishes,

  17. My book should arrive today, which may change my mind about this, but I want to cast on Beachwalker and the green yoked sweater RIGHT NOW!

  18. I would like a Rigging Sweatshirt too! I see my library has the new book on order so I have reserved it 🙂

  19. Congratulations on your new book! Mine arrived over the weekend, and there are so many designs I love. I definitely see a Snowdrift and the bulky one with the thumb holes (I don’t have my book at my studio … knew if I brought it I wouldn’t get any work done 😉 ) in my future. And the Rigging Sweatshirt … and and and …

  20. The hardest part of knitting a sweater for myself is that my hips measure 8 inches larger than my bust. When I’m sewing, I can grade the hips out and maintain design ease and it’s not much extra work or extra materials. When I’m knitting, it’s a little terrifying. A sweater that has -3-0 ease on my bust has -11 – -8 on my hips so I try to work increases in to the next size up and it works fairly well as long as my increases are away from the side seams. I favor cardigans that have either a single button under the bust or only button from the neck to waist. My worry with an unfitted cardigan is that it will look like I stole it from someone’s brother because of how big it will be at the shoulder and how tight it will be at the bottom.

  21. Hi Amy,

    thank you for a good article, I found it very interesting. I am planning to knit a basic un-structured sweater, and perhaps you could help me with some suggestions re: working out the size?

    The pattern is a basic rectangle, same width from hips to shoulders; then do a sloped shoulder bind off. Pick up the stitches along the armholes and knit the sleeves with a slight taper. I would like it to be loose and drapey – somewhere close to this fit

    So, my question is – what do you think is the ease on that sweater in the above picture?

    If it helps, my measurements are 36″ bust and hips (I’m a very tall, elongated hourglass), nowhere near as slender as the girl in that picture though! I’ve knitted sweaters with 40″ chest before, but they were still fairly form-fitting on me.

    But, on the other hand, I’m a bit afraid to go past 4″ ease without planning. After years of knitting fitted sweaters, it seems like a huge amount! Also, the sweater I’m planning is going to be in fingering yarn, and that’s just so much work and precious time, and I’d like to get it right from the first try…

    I would appreciate any suggestions!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *